UA FOOTBALL

Onside kick took 'lucky bounce'

LB Flowers recovers ball after it ricochets off Wolf Pack's chest
2012-12-16T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T15:34:30Z Onside kick took 'lucky bounce'Patrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
December 16, 2012 12:00 am  • 

ALBUQUERQUE - Rich Rodriguez spent the seconds before the Arizona Wildcats' miraculous onside kick screaming at his assistants.

After the Wildcats suffered so many injuries in Saturday's New Mexico Bowl, he worried they wouldn't take the field with 11 players.

"Making sure we had everybody in the right spot," he said, "and crossing our fingers a little bit."

Coaches screamed the name of the onside kick group.

"It's The Takeway Team - we try to take the ball away," Rodriguez said. "But they've got to help you."

The Nevada Wolf Pack did just that in the UA's improbable 49-48 win against Nevada.

Trailing by six with 46 seconds left, UA senior kicker John Bonano leaned the ball against the tee. The bottom of the ball touched the ground; he wanted to kick its pointy top.

Rodriguez didn't speak to Bonano, figuring he knew what to do.

The senior practiced onside kicks every day, with special sessions each Thursday.

The kicker aimed the ball at Duke Williams - a decision that changed the Nevada safety's life.

Bonano took a few steps to his right and smoked a two-bounce, end-over-end chopper to the left.

The second hop, at the UA 47-yard line, was two feet to Williams' left.

Rather than let it go to the next line of receivers toward the sideline, as he was taught, Williams tried to smother the kick.

"It popped right into his chest," Bonano said with a smile.

The ball catapulted off the turf and then Williams' shoulder pads. It skittered away, and Marquis Flowers fell on it.

"I feel sick for me, and my teammates, for what happened," Williams said.

Flowers' teammates piled on top of the UA linebacker, as they were coached, to keep Nevada players from trying to wrestle the ball away.

"We practice it all the time, but when it actually hit him, it was like slow motion," Flowers said. "I look on the ground, and the ball is rolling right down, and I was like, 'My team needs me.'

"So I jumped on it and secured it.

"I didn't want it to slip out or anybody else to knock it out."

Nevada coach Chris Ault said Williams should not have tried to stop the ball - "That kick, you let it go through and it goes out of bounds," he said - and his senior didn't necessarily disagree.

"I figured I'd just make the play," said an anguished Williams, who played his last college game. "When it counted, I just wasn't able to make it.

"You just gotta hold yourself accountable for what happened. Reality is reality.

"I didn't make the play when it counted, when the ball bounced my way."

The Wildcats sideline went bananas.

"I really couldn't believe it," quarterback Matt Scott said. "It seemed like a dream."

Running back Ka'Deem Carey made a point to look in the faces of the Wolf Pack players as Arizona's offense sprinted on the field. He liked the panic in their eyes.

"I knew that's why we had to go out there and punch the last one in and go out there and get it," he said.

Not that Nevada was defeated, quite yet.

"If we recover it, the game's over," Wolf Pack senior linebacker Albert Rosette said. "They got it. They still have to go down and score a touchdown. They don't have any timeouts.

"It's not like the game's over. The game's not over."

Twenty-one seconds later, Tyler Slavin caught a 2-yard pass and Bonano made the extra point.

With 19 seconds left, the UA took its first lead of the game.

"It's a tremendous kick," Rodriguez said. "Again, it was a lucky bounce.

"But a little bit of luck and a little bit of guys hustling, that made it happen."

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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